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Sen. Nelson Calls For More Zika Funding

Tom/ flickr

Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is calling on Congress to approve Zika response funding.

Since February, President Obama has been pushing Congress to fund a $1.9 billion Zika response. The money would go to research, education and mosquito control. Tuesday the president signed a bill incentivizing drug companies to find a cure, but Senator Bill Nelson thinks Congress should do more.

“Clearly the World Health Organization has said this is a public health emergency of international concern. The CDC has said that it is scarier than we initially thought. So we’ve got a full-blown crisis,” he said.

Ron Klain served as the White House Ebola response coordinator, or Ebola Csar, and he says preventative action is key. But Klain believes partisan politics are undermining public health.

“Pregnant women are going to be struck with this disease without regard to party preference. So I hope the Congress can come together now, I hope the Republicans who are objecting to this would take on the spirit they had during the Ebola response, agree to a bipartisan, prompt action to fund this response and to keep the American people safe and to fight this disease in other countries as well,” he said.

Nearly the entire state of Florida is at risk, as well as the Gulf Coast from Texas to Alabama. That’s according to Dr. Peter Hotez, a tropical disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine. Hotez says there will be grave consequences if lawmakers don’t act.

“I am of the opinion that if we start seeing clusters of microcephaly cases, first of all it’s too late to do anything at that point. The horse has left the barn. And if we see clusters of microcephaly cases, it will be spoken about in the same context as Hurricane Katrina or the BP Oil Disaster. It will be talked about in something of that magnitude if not greater,” he said.

Hotez expects the number of cases to rise with warmer weather, and as more people enter the United States from affected areas like Puerto Rico and Haiti.